"John Carter" opens in a few weeks, and I must say that I'm really excited. Its weird though, because there's so much negativity, doom and gloom about the release of this film...and I'm left wondering why. Box office prognosticators, Internet Nerds, and even the New York Times are clamoring all over each other discussing the prospects of this film and how it will be a huge flop. Why? Admittedly, the marketing seems kind of hollow, but the visuals are spectacular and I think the film looks exciting and true to the spirit of the original.
Admittedly, I'm a huge fan of the books, so I come with foreknowledge...and that may be why I'm optimistic. If someone does NOT know the character and the history, they may be perplexed as to why this movie is so special. "Teh Internet" will let you know that John Carter is the informal basis for Superman, many of the settings and imagery from Star Wars (Return of the Jedi even has flying airships and Princess Leia decked out like a Frazetta-inspired Dejah Thoris), and Flash Gordon, that enduring comic strip character, is basically a direct rip-off of the John Carter story. Lets not forget Avatar too, which James Cameron freely admitted was beat for beat the same friggin' plot. All of these things have done what all great art does; riff on what has come before. To me, all I think when I see these films/comics/whatever is how awesome it would be to see the original source get its due. And that's exactly what is happening.
One part of the marketing that vexes me is that it isn't clear who is behind the film. EVERYONE loves Pixar, and Stanton is responsible for the two best Pixar movies (The Incredibles is up there too, but Finding Nemo and Wall-E are runaway favs of mine). If I were to pick the most consistently excellent group of writers and directors working in the business today, it would be any of the people behind the Pixar films. Does Disney fear scaring away the adults and encourging little kiddies to attend an adult movie? Probably, and I suppose that sort of makes sense, but it also assumes that people are fools. The previews make it clear that there is epic violence, scary monsters, and scantily clad people. And if the people are talented behind the camera, let the public know about it!
What excites me most about the film are the ways in which screenwriters Stanton, Andrews, and Chabon manage to craft a coherent plot from the insanity of the Burroughs text. The books are very episodic and choppy in structure, and Carter himself is very much a heroic archetype with little in the way of actual human frailties. The stories are designed to be exciting and visceral , but not terribly sensible or concerned with character and story arcs. A well-made film would go a long way towards improving upon the original text while maintaining the pulpy roots of the original. The best films work because you give a damn, and I want to see how they make this happen.
The visuals that have been showcased thus far look incredible. The tharks, warhoon, Woola, the airship designs...I love it all. Everything is just how I pictured it in the text, but fresh and exciting. The airships are a departure, but how stupid would it have looked to literally have flying wooden boats? The airships created the same excitment in me that I got from pouring through McQuarrie and Joe Johnston design sketches from the Star Wars films when I was younger...the style and technology is recognizable, but there is room for infinite variation. The Red Martians? I'm guessing the filmmakers tried the copper red skin, and decided to try something else for a good reason. My initial reaction to the henna tattoos and subtle reddish skin was 'that looks pretty nifty'.
All in all, I have high hopes for the film. If angry nerds were right all the time Snakes on a Plane would have been the biggest box office smash of all time. As it stands now, I think "John Carter" looks like a dream come true for this fan. People thought Star Wars and Titanic would flop, and Last Action Hero was a 'sure bet'. When all is said and done, I just want a well-made movie based on a story that is near and dear to me heart.
I look forward to March 9th.